Term of Award

Spring 2022

Degree Name

Doctor of Public Health in Community Health Behavior and Education (Dr.P.H.)

Document Type and Release Option

Dissertation (open access)

Copyright Statement / License for Reuse

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.


College of Public Health

Committee Chair

Gulzar Shah

Committee Member 1

Raymona Lawrence

Committee Member 2

Jonathan Grubb


Introduction: In comparison to other demographics, research shows that African American female adolescents are over-represented in the United States Juvenile Justice System. Studies in this vulnerable population demonstrate higher rates of engagement in unsafe sex, and its attendant negative consequences of HIV infections, sexually transmitted diseases, and mistimed pregnancies. There is a paucity of studies that have specifically examined risky sexual behaviors amongst African American females in Juvenile Detention Centers. Objective: The aim of this study is to assess the relationship between the individual, family, peer, and societal factors, and engagement in risky sex among Black female detainees in Juvenile Detention. These factors include history of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse, self-esteem, history of parental incarceration, parental/primary caregiver support, single parent household, deviant norms among friends, and perceived life chances. Methods: This cross-sectional study utilizes data from baseline survey of a previously conducted randomized control trial, Informed, Motivated, Aware, and Responsible about AIDS (IMARA). The study population were 188 Black females detained at the Metro Regional Youth Detention Center, in Atlanta, Georgia. Institutional Review Board approval for this current study was received from Georgia Southern University. Univariate and bivariate analyses were conducted, using the appropriate statistical analyses for the respective variables. A multiple logistic regression model was built for final analysis using backward elimination. Results: A vital finding in this study demonstrates that having experienced abuse is a significant predictor for engagement in risky sexual behavior, with an adjusted odds ratio of 2.65 (1.12, 6.30). Additionally, the odds of risky sexual behavior increase by a unit of 1.05 with each unit increase in deviant peer norms score (p value = 0.06). Other variables did not demonstrate statistically significant correlation with risky sexual behavior. Conclusion: This novel study highlights important findings that can be used to promote sexual health among the intersectional class of Black juvenile girls, inform public health practice and policy, as well as bridge inequities. Of note, given the study’s cross-sectional design, inference about causality regarding the results cannot be made. Further research with a longitudinal design component is needed.

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